Getting the Jump on Time

I woke up this morning cursing daylight savings time. Now, you may be nodding your head in solidarity — who likes losing an hour of sleep? — but I actually love daylight savings time. For a person like me who loves sunshine and hates mornings the annual “spring forward” is a small price to pay for 239 more hours of enjoyable sunlight. So, it was weird when I woke up this morning and struggled to be excited.

Normally, I spend the Sunday morning after the big shift lazily waking up without an alarm. I open my eyes whenever it feels right and look around at the various clocks throughout my house unconcerned with which ones are right and which ones are wrong. I spend the whole day with chronological near misses, constantly asking, “Is this clock right?” but it actually doesn’t matter. I am weekend calm and the answer really isn’t all that big a deal — we have all day to figure it out.

This morning was different. I’m traveling for a women’s leadership development conference and today’s agenda starts at 7:00am. At last night’s event, the organizers were insistent that individuals should not miss our start time so I came back to my room and developed an elaborate scheme. I was going to ensure that I didn’t screw up by changing my phone from automatic sync to manual sync and I would set it forward before I fell asleep, just like in the olden days.

Take that, I thought. I’ve got this handled.

Well, when my alarm went off on my cell phone at 6:00am on the nose, I saw that the hotel’s alarm clock still showed 5:00am. No worries, that was to be expected because everyone knows that alarm clocks need a human being to update them. But, in an over abundance of caution (and because my Spidey sense was tinging) I better confirm confirm the time using one of a million “what time is it” websites. Site after site stated it was 5:00am, not 6:00am and I sat there befuddled, wondering which data was right.

“Is this clock right?” felt strangely urgent.

So, I jumped out of bed and called the hotel front desk where a nice woman confirmed that I had — in my over-engineered attempt to not screw up and miss my meeting — sprung forward two hours. My smart phone had refused to be dumb and regardless of my attempts to make the change proactively still adjusted to daylight savings at 2:00am as per the careful programming. Sheepishly, I hung up the phone and headed to the shower.

We’ve all been there, faced with a failed plan and stuck not knowing how to move on. If I wanted to, I could whip myself into a frenzy and spend the rest of the day disappointed. I could be angry about technology, frustrated with my plan, or embarrassed by my own incompetence. I could be, but I won’t.

Because in the end, instead of rushing down to the breakfast at 7:00am, I was dressed and ready to go at 6:00am. I pulled my iPad out and wrote this blog post. From one perspective I did lose an hour of sleep, but I gained an hour of reflection. And more importantly I gained another remarkable moment that makes my life not just a series of days, but a series of stories.

And I’ll gladly be sheepish (and sleepy) in exchange for that.

Surviving Midwestern Winter

Someday, spring will come. I feel compelled to remind myself of that as I trudge through the final weeks of our midwestern winter, sitting on my heated seats and wrapped in my massive “blarf” — an accessory that is part blanket, part scarf. Winter is my least favorite season and I haven’t warmed to it over time.

No pun intended.

The certainty of a new spring inspires me. No matter how depressing the graying piles of snow and constant overcast skies can be, I know deep in my heart that brighter days are ahead. Last week, I got out of the office at a decent time and actually pulled into my driveway before the sun set. I smiled, pleasantly surprised by the proof of lengthening days.

It seems odd that I’m still surprised, pleasantly or otherwise, by something as banal as beating a sunset home. After all, I have lived most of my life within the Great Lakes basin, watching the same pattern for nearly 46 years. The dark, cold months of winter finally drag everyone but the skiers, snowmobilers, and ice fishermen into a funk and then one day the college kids are wearing shorts with daffodils popping out of the ground.

Poof, spring.

I love the seasons, love the fact that our oblong orbit around the sun can create a pattern of life that takes me into cold darkness only to bring me out again. It’s like the universe is speaking just to me, “Don’t worry, Mel. Yes, we will make your day-to-day living miserable. Going anywhere will be a pain in the butt and you’ll feel constantly cold. All you will want to do is stay inside next to a roaring fire in your footie pjs under a fuzzy afghan wishing you had been born in Tampa instead of Toledo. But we promise that it will get better. One day, you’ll walk outside and the air won’t hurt your face.”

And sure enough one day I walk into my garage without my coat. Later, I get into my convertible for my commute. Then one weekend we put the boat in the water and the snow is just a fuzzy memory that Facebook will remind me of in the years to come.

I guess I could move somewhere where the seasons are less dramatic. If I really wanted to I could move to a place where the coldest days bring rain and an inch of snow is considered an oddity. A friend from high school moved to New Orleans. Several friends now live in North Carolina. Someone else just took a three-year gig in Fiji. No one is forcing me to stay here, a mere 300-miles northwest of where I was born. But, what would I look forward to? What would I do without a winter to survive?

Winter to me is a metaphor for every low, dark moment of my life. Every time that it feels too dark, too cold, and too exhausting I remember that spring will come. I find a quiet place and think about the way I feel when the grass starts to green up and I can sit out on the deck without a coat. I envision laying in the sun on the back of the boat, eyes closed against the bright until the heat is too much and I move into the slice of shade created by the bimini. I imagine the wind in my hair and tunes loud in my ears as I drive with the top down, mile after glorious mile.

And somehow, no matter how much snow is piling up in my life I know that spring will come.

So, I guess I’ll stay. Midwestern winters may be long and cold and brutal, but the summers are fabulous. I’m not sure I would appreciate just how fabulous if I didn’t have to survive one to get to the other. Philosophers and psychologists can explain it better, but for me it’s simple. Every year I put my blarf away I have another data point that proves without a doubt that I’ll make it.

But please, for the love of all that is good, let spring come soon.